Douglas County, City of Lawrence will be responsible for appointing Peaslee Tech’s board under new joint resolution

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Douglas County Commissioner Shannon Reid speaks during the commission's Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, meeting.

The Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday followed suit with a decision made by their counterparts on the Lawrence City Commission a day earlier as they approved a joint resolution requiring that Peaslee Tech’s board of directors be appointed by the city and county.

With both bodies’ approval, the county is now responsible for appointing four of the technical school’s board of seven members — one at-large, one representing K-12 education, one representing a financial institution and one representing post-secondary education. The city would handle the other three — one at-large, one representing the Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County and one representing workforce development.

Before their vote Wednesday night, county commissioners spent some time discussing one of their appointees — the individual representing K-12 education. Douglas County Commissioner Patrick Kelly noted that the technical school has something of a “symbiotic” relationship with the Lawrence school district, in particular. Outside of the commission, Kelly serves as chief academic officer for the Lawrence school district.

Peaslee Tech CEO Kevin Kelley briefly addressed the commission and echoed those thoughts, calling that relationship a “critical” one.

“We certainly have so many interlacing activities,” Kelley said. “We share teachers, we share facilities, we do a lot of daily activities with the district. I can’t imagine that changing with the change in our structure.”

Kelly wondered if it may be possible to appoint an “ex officio” member representing Lawrence public schools, an additional board member chosen by virtue of a particular office or position. There aren’t any restrictions on that front in Peaslee Tech’s bylaws, Kelley told the commission.

Fellow commissioners Shannon Portillo and Shannon Reid also acknowledged the close relationship between the two. For her part, Portillo said it’s important to remember Douglas County has five school districts. It’s an opportunity for Peaslee Tech to “stretch its wings” and work with a number of school districts throughout the community, she said, but also said it’s important that the relationship with Lawrence public schools be thought of as “front and center.”

Reid, meanwhile, said she also thought the opportunity for representation from more than just one of the county’s school districts was important, though it isn’t feasible to appoint someone from every school district.

“What I don’t want to do is change it to be USD 497-specific and exclude all those other school districts’ ability to potentially have a seat at that table and help move forward some of Peaslee Tech’s goals that are truly countywide,” Reid said.

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved a pair of amendments revising zoning regulations. One of them provides clarity to the county’s regulations for solar energy conversion systems, and the other revises subdivision regulations for Lawrence and the unincorporated areas of Douglas County to prohibit any new rezoning in the “Cluster Preservation” district — the rural residential zoning district.

• Recognized Portillo for her service on the commission. Wednesday’s meeting was Portillo’s last, as she will officially leave her seat Saturday so she can take a position at Arizona State University. Her replacement, Karen Willey, was selected during a Douglas County Democratic Party convention at the end of August and will join the board for her first commission meeting next week.

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky recognized Portillo for her dedication to serving Douglas County, and Reid said it was an honor to have served alongside her. Kelly also said he appreciated Portillo’s work on various initiatives, including working with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

“I have spent a lot of time studying local government and being around local government; it’s been really eye-opening and a fantastic experience to be able to serve as an elected official in local government,” Portillo said. “I think we got a whole lot done in 18 months, and I am deeply appreciative for all of that.”


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